Hydrogeochemistry of shallow groundwater in an upland Scottish catchment

C. Soulsby*, M. Chen, R. C. Ferrier, R. C. Helliwell, A. Jenkins, R. Harriman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


The hydrogeochemistry of shallow groundwater has been characterized in the Allt a' Mharcaidh catchment in the Scottish Cairngorms in order to: 1) assess the spatial and temporal variation in groundwater chemistry; 2) identify the hydrogeochemical processes regulating its evolution; and 3) examine the influence of groundwater on the quality and quantity of stream flow. Shallow groundwater in superficial drift deposits is circumneutral (pH ~7.1) and base cation concentrations are enriched compared with precipitation and drainage water from overlying podzolic soils. Modelling with NETPATH suggests that the dominant geochemical processes that account for this are the dissolution of plagioclase, K-feldspar and biotite. Groundwater emerging as springs from weathered granite underlying high altitude (>900 m) alpine soils shows similar characteristics, though weathering rates are lower, probably as a result of reduced residence times and lower temperatures. Chemical hydrograph separation techniques using acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) and Si as tracers show that groundwater is the dominant source of baseflow in the catchment and also buffers the chemistry of stream water at high flows: groundwater may account for as much as 50-60% of annual runoff in the catchment. Climate and land use in the Cairngorms are vulnerable to future changes, which may have major implications for hydrogeological processes in the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1111-1127
Number of pages17
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 1998


  • hydrogeochemistry
  • groundwater
  • acidification
  • geochemical modelling
  • runoff proccesses
  • Cairngorms


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